Frustratingly, the hotel policy makes no further mention of the dangerous items, leading to all kinds of speculation – hand grenades? TNT? Durian?
Wandering past the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, I was surprised to see a member of the Queen’s Guard. No – not an international exchange of royal guards – he’s just advertising Costa Coffee.
Just as well, as I think her majesty might have something to say about his relaxed attitude and the state of his shoes.
Another surprise inside Costa (my only visit to an international chain … promise!) was a monk, sitting enjoying an iced coffee and an almond croissant.
I’ve seen so many monks standing outside houses in the mornings, waiting for an offering in exchange for a blessing, and I assumed they took the money back to the Pagoda to be used for rice and vegetables and other nourishing, unworldly food, rather than going to Costa … but Cambodian monks seem to be more Friar Tuck than Francis of Assissi.
The Palace is very splendid and stuffed full of gold, silver, emeralds and diamonds.
The King even has his own pavilion for standing and gazing at the moon at night – I don’t think even Marie Antoinette had one of those.
The royal pagoda has a whopping great emerald Buddha, and the floor is made up of 1,259 solid silver tiles, each weighing one kilo – seriously impressive, but no photos allowed, unfortunately.
I was allowed to photograph this room full of solid gold elephants though
which appear to have been made by someone who had only the vaguest idea of what an elephant looks like.
My guide told me all sorts of interesting facts, for example, in tradional Khmer culture you’re supposed to dress in a different colour every day of the week … as if life wasn’t complicated enough.
This photo could be used as a useful aide-memoire, counting across from Sunday on the left.
There was also a model of the coronation procession for the current king.
In front of him were rows of officials all carrying particular objects, presumably of symbolic importance, like a roll of cloth, or something that looks like a butternut squash
and one poor chap had to carry a very fluffy cat.
I hope it was well sedated to stop it jumping down and running off halfway along the route.
There is an enormous picture of the king outside the Palace, which is lit up at night.
I’m thinking of writing to Buckingham Palace to suggest that we do the same.
And just around the corner from the Palace, I came across this family.
They live on this mat on the pavement. They have three children and the woman is pregnant. I broke the rule instilled into all volunteers not to give money to beggars, and gave them $5. I hope they spent it on food, and I also hope that there’s a project like Grace House nearby that will give those children an education.
There were several families living on the pavement near the Palace.
This family lives under a tarpaulin tied to the railings of an expensive house.
Perhaps the King could offer them his moon gazing pavilion as a temporary home during the rainy season, as you certainly need a substantial roof over your head. The weather can change in twenty minutes from this –
to this –
where you can’t even see the sky any more and the streets are flooded within seconds.
There is so much rubbish everywhere in Cambodia, that I took this to be another pile of junk
and wondered vaguely why there were full bags of rice as well as the old televisions and videos. Then I saw a sign and realised that it is actually a modern art installation called ‘The Hawker’s Song’. It is exposing ‘the street hawker’s experience’ and highlighting the need to ‘maintain vibrant community cultures’. Needless to say, it was conceived and installed by two Western artists and not Cambodians.